Editor’s Note: The following is a detailed account which may be considered somewhat graphic.
ANGELIA JOINER Staff Writer
Jessica Reynolds watched as Courtney Butler jumped into the raging Paluxy River to save Carlos Manzano after he accidentally slipped in and screamed for help.
Moments later, the 16-year-old Butler disappeared into the river and didn’t resurface.
Authorities continued to search for the Stephenville teen late Wednesday.
“Courtney jumped in to save him and started fighting for her life,” Reynolds said. “She was screaming for help. It was all happening so fast. She was holding her arms up. She kept going under and she was trying to swim on her back to get out of the current.
“It just kept pulling her back under. We couldn’t do anything about it. Her face just kept going under. We tried to make a human chain - Jessica, then Alex (friends) and then me. Every time she went up for air, we lost her.”
Reynolds said Butler just kept getting farther and farther out in the river and she and her friends were unable to reach her.
“Then she went under and I never saw her again,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said Manzano, Butler’s boyfriend who she jumped in to save, ended up saving himself. She said he was stronger and able to get out of the current.
“He managed to get out of there,” Reynolds said. “He was able to hold on to some branches.”
Reynolds said when authorities arrived at the scene, she and her friends kept telling them that Manzano was still in the water.
“They kept telling us, ‘We have to follow procedures,’” Reynolds said. “We kept telling them to get Carlos out and they wouldn’t listen to us.”
Reynolds said another officer who had previously been searching for Butler’s body must have overheard them and jumped into the water to rescue Manzano.
“He didn’t have a lifejacket on or anything,” Reynolds said. “All of them (other officers) did. He’s like a hero — he really is.”
Reynolds said she didn’t know the hero’s name but described the man as being in his early 30s, bald and muscular.
She said he was wearing a white shirt and had a tattoo on his upper back. He also had tattoos on the backs of both upper arms that had Old English script.
Reynolds said she planned on returning to Glen Rose on Wednesday to see if she could help search for Butler.
“I’ve known her a few years. We were acquaintances. She was friends with my friends,” Reynolds said.
She said while in Glen Rose she hoped to find out the name of the man she considers a hero.
ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.